Top 10 reasons for car break downs (and how to prevent them)
Car break downs are a massive hassle that most drivers will experience a few times in their life time. But did you know that most of the common causes for break downs are both predictable and preventable?
Whether your car is stuck on the driveway, refusing to start, or has simply juddered to a halt on the motorway, we can probably guess the reason (or reasons) why it doesn’t want to go anywhere.
These are the top 10 reasons cars tend to break down:
1. It’s run out of juice
A flat or faulty battery causes up to 20% of break downs each year. If you mostly use your car for short journeys with a lot of stopping and starting, the battery will drain and eventually run out. This is why people on the school run or commute to work often need a jump-start to their day. Keeping the lights on overnight will also drain the battery.
To avoid getting a flat battery, take your car on a nice long drive (preferably during daylight hours so you don’t use the lights, wipers or heating). This drive will give the battery a chance to recharge.
2. You’ve lost your keys
OK, this isn’t really ‘breaking down’ but lost keys is the second most common reason break down services are called upon. We suggest having at least two sets of car keys and keeping them in separate places. Only bring the spare set out for emergencies and you’ve looked absolutely everywhere else (including down the back of the sofa).
Replacement keys are also available through main dealers, and some break down services can replace them on the spot.
3. Something is wrong with the tyres
Tyre damage is almost inevitable over time. Driving on uneven surfaces, pot holes and just age can cause your tyres to deteriorate. Check your tyre tread and tyre pressure as part of your regular vehicle checks and keep an eye on any damage to the tyre wall. If you are unsure, take your car to a mechanic and they’ll advise you what to do next.
4. The distributor cap is damaged
The distributor cap covers the distributor (surprisingly) and this routes high voltage to the spark plugs. If this cap is damaged, it could cause your car to short circuit in damp conditions and prevent the spark from reaching the spark plug.
Consult your trusty user’s handbook and identify the distributor cap, and check for any damage. If you spot any, replace the cap as soon as possible.
5. The alternator is faulty
The alternator recharges the battery. It uses power from the engine and also provides power to the car’s electrical components. Over time, the alternator can become faulty or just have a bad connection.
Again you’ll have to replace this item to get your car back on the road.
6. You’ve run out of fuel
Another unusual reason for car break downs is that the car has run out of petrol, even though it’s avoidable. A surprising number of people often put the wrong fuel in their car too.
If either of these happen to you, don’t start the car. Go to the nearest garage and get some fuel (if you’ve just run out), and call your break down service if you’ve filled up with the wrong fuel. In this case, starting the engine would severely damage it, so if you’re in a tight spot push your car to a safe location.
7. You’re clutch-ing at straws
The clutch is vital for when you change gear, but eventually it will wear out.
Every car’s clutch has a different lifespan that’s dependent on how you treat it. Only use the clutch when you need to – take your car out of gear rather than sitting around for 30 seconds with your foot on it. Don’t ride the clutch as a way of controlling your car either – that’s what the brakes and accelerator are for.
8. The spark plugs have lost their sparkle
It sounds obvious, but spark plugs produce an electrical spark that starts a chain reaction. Igniting the fuel and air in the engine that causes the pistons to move up and down.
These will wear out, and should be changed when your car goes in for its regular service.
9. The HT (high tension) leads have worn out
These carry the spark from the ignition to the spark plugs. Like the plugs, they will wear out and fail without warning and will need replacing if you want your car to move again.
10. The starter motor won’t start
This often occurs at home as the starter motor uses electricity from the battery to turn and start the engine when the car is switched on. If the starter motor fails, you’ll be stranded and will technically be a ‘home start’ call out (usually a bolt on to standard car insurance policies).
So now you know the top 10 reasons for car break downs, you can prepare for them and, in some circumstances, even prevent them. It’s always worth having break down cover just in case anything else happens/you’re not confident enough to fix it. Break downs are never fun, but hopefully these tips will help you get back on the road in no time!